The Ouidah Museum of History
             
 
The Lost Communities of the Xweda Kingdom
 
             
Ouidah Museum of History
Lost Communities Exhibit
  Archaeology
  History
  Tapestry
  Acknowledgments

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Archaeological Findiings

Archeological research of the area around Savi suggests that these communities were socially stratified, with large and richly appointed governor's residences, as well as economically diverse, with specialized production areas that fabricated objects of iron and stone, ceramics, cloth, baskets, and other materials that provisioned the larger centers. The countryside also shared in the riches enjoyed by the palace, as evidenced by the exotic European trade items such as beads and glassware recovered from all types of countryside archaeological sites. In all, over 150,000 objects were recovered during the excavation.

Ceramics

Example of a locally produced ceramic artifact.By far, archaeologists have discovered more locally produced ceramic artifacts from the Xwéda period than any other object type. Most of these ceramics are “sherds”, or fractured pieces of ceramic vessels, though a few whole vessels were recovered. Many are decorated in widely varying patterns. It is not clear whether the decorations expressed the ethnicity or class of the owner, designated the function of the vessel, provided a textured surface to aid in grasping or transporting the vessel, or simply beautified the object.

Lithics

Examples of debitage from stone tool production. Savi artisans produced stone tools using quartz from the Mono region and other local stones from north of the Abomey Plateau. These small stone blades had similar uses to modern household knives. Archaeologists often find the debitage, or waste flakes, that resulted from the production, shaping, and sharpening of stone tools. The stone tools and debitage recovered in the Savi region suggest that there were individuals living in the area and using such tools prior to the emergence of Savi as a major trading center (ca. 1660 AD).

Metal Objects

Pike head, originally fitted to the barrel of a gun.Blacksmiths in Slave Coast societies manufactured iron tools and weapons. The discovery in southern Bénin of sites contemporary to Savi where iron smelting took place suggests that although bar iron from Europe was traded into the area; some items were constructed of locally derived iron.

Trade Objects

Dutch clay trade pipe.Though the majority imported goods were concentrated in the palace, exotic trade items made their way to the countryside communities. From these sites, project archaeologists recovered sherds from European wine bottles, Italian trade beads, European coins, Flintlock gun pieces, and numerous Dutch white clay pipes.

Ritual Objects

Possible ceramic ritual vessel. The archaeological identification of ritual life in the 17 th and 18 th centuries AD Xwéda kingdom has proven difficult, but some tenuous and cautious analogies with modern ritual, specifically modern ritual ceramics, has been postulated. Today, one of the defining characteristics of Vodun shrines are the locally produced earthenware ceramics that serve as receptacles for offerings and representations of the deities. Several ceramics with similar forms were recovered during the 2004-2006 seasons.